Why future doctors could be coming from Boynton Beach High

January 2016

By Alexandra Seltzer - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

If one of Boynton Beach High’s star basketball players was knocked out during a game and wasn’t breathing, the students in the new medical program know how to help.

They call out the steps — check for a response, check if the person is breathing, call 911 and start CPR — to their teacher Chad Parker as if the classroom scenario is real.

For a quick second, it almost feels like it is.

Students are dressed in purple scrubs. Manikins are in hospital beds with sheets pulled over them. Walls are decorated with diagrams of the digestive system and the heart.

“It’s pretty wild that one of these kids going through an airport or something can save a life,” Principal Fred Barch said while watching a class Friday morning.

At the end of their sophomore year, students will be certified as an emergency medical responder. By the end of their junior year, they’ll have a medical administrative assistant certification. And at the end of senior year, they’ll add to the list personal trainer and EKG technician.

Boynton High, which will be a choice school in 2016/2017, rolled out the medical program this year. Barch said when he first started as principal in Boynton he noticed students went elsewhere for medical studies, and decided it was time to change that. Already, there are 17 schools in the Palm Beach County School district including Boynton that have a medical program. Forest Hill High started its program this year.

It all began with Lake Worth High School in 1991. Next was Palm Beach Gardens. Many schools started programs after 2006, and the plan is to continue.

“Our focus is to get more opportunities for students to be able to pursue their dream in health care,” said Miguel Benavente, the district’s medical sciences specialist.

There’s demand in health care, because that’s increasingly where the jobs are, Benavente said, adding that they are high paying and high skill level.

Boynton’s program came to fruition with the help of about $540,000 in grants from the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund, the Quantum Foundation and the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. The Pew Foundation alone gave about $416,000, Barch said.

There are about 55 students enrolled in the medical academy this year, and Parker is the sole teacher. Barch said he plans to hire a second teacher next year.

When Justine Anderson first started in the medical program she thought she wanted to be a psychiatrist when she got older.

But after a couple of months of learning, the 16-year-old sophomore has changed her mind to becoming a pediatrician.

“I really like it,” Justine said of the program. “Especially Mr. Parker. If we want to do something he shows us.”

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